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Payment Collection Practices:
The CFPB proposal includes restrictions on collection practices for covered short-term and longer-term loans. As rationale for the restriction, the CFPB cites the “substantial risk of consumer harm, including substantial fees and in some cases, the risk of account closure” which may come if lenders are allowed to collect payments from consumers’ checking, savings, and prepaid accounts. The CFPB proposes to require advanced notice of any lender-initiated attempt to collect payment from a consumer’s account and to restrict the number of attempts to collect payments.
The CFPB proposal would require written notice to a consumer prior to each lender-initiated attempt to collect payment from a consumer’s checking, savings or prepaid account. The CFPB is contemplating a proposal that would require notice of no less than three business days and potentially no more than seven business days prior to each collection attempt. The notice would require specific transactional information be included, including the exact amount and date of the collection attempt, the payment channel through which collection will be attempted, a breakdown as to how the payment will be applied, the loan balance, and contact information for the lender. Id., p. 29. The CFPB is contemplating allowing electronic notification.
The CFPB is concerned that multiple unsuccessful attempts to collect payments results in the consumer incurring insufficient fund charges, returned fees charged by lenders and costs related to account closure. Therefore, the CFPB proposal would prohibit lenders from making more than two consecutive unsuccessful attempts to collect funds. After that, the lender would be required to obtain a new authorization from the consumer.
What is omitted from the CFPB Fact Sheet and its press release is the fact that the CFPB is also considering a proposal to require lenders to maintain policies and procedures that are “reasonably designed to achieve compliance” with the short-term and longer-term loan proposals. The compliance piece of the proposal would require that lenders to adapt policies and procedures that “would cover the lenders’ processes for determining ability to repay when originating covered loans; reporting to and checking covered loan information in commercially available reporting systems; maintaining the accuracy of loan information furnished to a commercially available reporting system; documenting the ability to repay determination in the consumer’s loan file; overseeing third party service providers; ensuring that payments notices are provided; and tracking the payment presentments on a loan.” Id., p. 31.
The proposal contemplates record retention for 36 months, including:
The proposal also contemplates annual reports encompassing data sufficient to monitor the performance of covered loans, including information on defaults and reborrowing.
Impacts of the Payday Proposal for Lenders
While there is no doubt that reform is needed, the CFPB’s proposal absolves the consumer of any responsibility for good decision making and is likely to have two key impacts: (a) make short-term credit harder for consumers to obtain; and (b) contract the market. Both of these impacts are acknowledged by the CFPB.
Impact on Consumers:
If the CFPB proposal comes to fruition, short-term loans are likely to become largely a thing of the past, a fact acknowledged by the CFPB. The CFPB simulations indicate that by using the ability to repay option (“prevention”), loan volume is likely to fall between 69-84%. Their simulation using the alternative option (“protection”), would result in a 55-62% decline of loan volume. Id., pp. 40-44.
These simulations take into account only the more restrictive requirements to qualify for short-term loans and do not take into account the operational impact on lenders. The CFPB concedes that, as a result, it is likely that “[r]elatively few loans could be made under the ability-to-repay requirement.” Id., p. 45. Moreover, [m]aking loans that comply with the alternative requirements…would also have substantial impacts on revenue.” Id. The CFPB concludes that the proposal could lead to substantial consolidation in the market.
Similarly, the impact on longer-term loans is likely to significantly constrict the availability of these loan products. The data is particularly telling regarding the PTI alternative of 5%/six months (“Protection”). The CFPB data indicates that less than 10% of current loans would meet the PTI alternative of 5%/six months. Id., p. 50.
Impact on Lenders:
If passed, the CFPB proposal will significantly impact the operational costs involved in making loans that fall within the proposal. The CFPB acknowledges that lenders may be required to invest in computer systems and software to comply with the record keeping requirements and invest time in developing policies and procedures regarding the new requirements and in training staff. Additionally, the CFPB acknowledges that entities will be required to invest in contracts with reporting entities as they will be required to be both data furnishers and users of information. The CFPB also acknowledges the costs in terms of time for making each loan and collecting would be significant. This is particularly true when taking into account the fairly minimal amount of each loan.
Coupling the significant restrictions to qualify for short-term credit with revenue and operational impacts, if the proposal comes to fruition, no one will win. Few consumers who truly are in need of short-term credit will be able to qualify. Moreover, the cost to make, service, and collect these loans will increase exponentially, making it impractical for lenders to provide these loan products.
Caren Enloe leads Smith Debnam’ s consumer financial services litigation and compliance group. In her practice, she defends consumer financial service providers and members of the collection industry in state and federal court, as well as in regulatory matters involving a variety of consumer protection laws. Caren also advises fintech companies, law firms, and collection agencies regarding an array of consumer finance issues. An active writer and speaker, Caren currently serves as chair of the Debt Collection Practices and Bankruptcy subcommittee for the American Bar Association’s Consumer Financial Services Committee. She is also a member of the Defense Bar for the National Creditors Bar Association, the North Carolina State Chair for ACA International’s Member Attorney Program and a member of the Bank Counsel Committee of the North Carolina Bankers Association. Most recently, she was elected to the Governing Committee for the Conference on Consumer Finance Law. In 2018, Caren was named one of the “20 Most Powerful Women in Collections” by Collection Advisor, a national trade publication. Caren oversees a blog titled: Consumer Financial Services Litigation and Compliance dedicated to consumer financial services and has been published in a number of publications including the Journal of Taxation and Regulation of Financial Institutions, California State Bar Business Law News, Banking and Financial Services Policy Report and Carolina Banker. ...LEARN MORE